Monday, December 22, 2014

Town Mountain's Holiday Hunger Relief Benefit

On Saturday, December 20th, 2014 Town Mountain and Mandolin Orange played a benefit for two local hunger relief organizations, Funding America Through Entertainment (FATE) and MANNA FoodBank at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in Asheville, NC. New Belgium Brewing Company  sponsored the event and donated proceeds from their beer sales in addition to a monetary bonus. Town Mountain has dedicated a portion of ticket sales for the cause as well as arranged for a 50/50 raffle the evening of the show. This is the 3rd time that FATE and Town Mountain have teamed up to fight hunger, having donated more than $3000 towards the cause and Town Mountain will continue to develop the Holiday Bluegrass Benefit as an annual tradition.

Once again, it proved to be a fun and rowdy night of world class bluegrass tunes performed in front of a music loving crowd in Asheville. It was a great way for the local community of music lovers, artists, and businesses to take time to help the hungry in western North Carolina.

Thanks, Town Mountain for taking the lead on this. You guys rock.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hometown Hiker's Live Band List 2014

Gnometown didn't really knock it out of the park this year with live music, but we did the best we could. Between working night shift, taking a summer Europe trip, and hanging with the grand kids, we skipped out on seeing some music. Here's hoping for a groovy 2015!

Here are some of the great bands that we were fortunate enough to see in 2014.

Railroad Earth, Donna The Buffalo, Yonder Mountain String Band, Town Mountain, Jim Lauderdale, Green Sky Bluegrass, Jeff Mosier, The Traveling McCourys, The Duhks, The Royal Tinfoil, Punch Brothers, Jason Isbell, Steep Canyon Rangers, Grandpas Cough Medicine, Ralph Roddenbery, Henhouse Prowlers, The Honeycutters, Sam Bush, Del McCoury Band, Jerry Douglas, The Avett Brothers, Southern Soul Assembly, Sloppy Joe, Dread Clampitt, The Freight Hoppers, Porch 40, Dustin Martin and the Ramblers, Jon Stickley Trio, Mandolin Orange.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bartram Trail in October

There is no more beautiful time to hike in the southern Appalachians than October. The crisp air, changing colors, falling leaves, and clear views, all combine to create some of the best hiking conditions of the year. Here are some pics from a little jaunt I took on the Bartram Trail today from Jones Gap to Whiterock mountain. I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bike and Barge: Day 7.

8/1 To Amsterdam! 50km.

Today was our final day of touring, and we aimed our bicycles towards Amsterdam. During breakfast, we sailed from Utrecht to Breukelen. From there, we mounted our bicycles and rode through the Dutch country side. Piet asked if we wanted to visit a charming cheese farm, and the group agreed. The woman who owned the farm gave us a tour of the milking barn and the cheese room. She talked to us about the cheese making process and then led us to their retail store, where we were given samples and the opportunity to buy. Susan picked us up a couple of wheels of her favorite, the delicious and unusual stinging-nettle cheese.

After eating lunch, we cycled to Muiderslot and looked at the castle, without actually touring it. The Muiderslot is a beautifully restored 13th century moated castle, located at the mouth of the river Vecht, where it flows into what used to be the Zuiderzee. We did not get to actually tour the castle with the group, but thankfully, we had visited it the week before joining the bike tour.

Next, we followed cycle paths along the final 15 km into the city of Amsterdam, where we immediately merged into the crazy and crowded, vibrant city traffic. We stuck with Piet and enjoyed an exciting urban ride into the city center and rejoined the Sailing Home at her mooring, near Central Station.

For a final dinner, Markus prepared smoked trout, shrimp done 3 different ways, and duck breast. As a special going away treat, the sweet crew sisters, Rita and Rianne baked us a going away cake in the shape of a bleeding heart. It was their way of saying they would be sad to see us go, but in actuality, we were sorry that our trip was coming to an end.

A pretty calf at a cheese farm.


Quintessential Dutch farm.

Muiderslot Selfie!

Bike bridge into Amsterdam.


Central Station, Amsterdam.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bike and Barge: Day 6.

7/31. Gorinchem to Vianen and Sail to Utrecht. 48km.

We had a beautiful day of riding today. Our itinerary states that we followed the meandering river, the Linge, through the Alblasserwaard to Leerdam. I don't remember all of that, but we did indeed go to Leerdam, famous for its glass. Susan is a glass artist, so we were eager to see their work. We visited a glass factory, where they produced blown art glass. It was very nice, but even better, was the attached cafe, where I got a delicious apple tart and cup of coffee.  Ah, bicycle touring in Europe is so much more relaxed and civilized than my numerous experiences of touring stateside.

We continued out of Leerdam to the village of Culemborg and then followed the Lek River to Vianen, where we met up with the Sailing Home. We boarded ourselves and our bicycles onto the boat and then proceeded to sail to Utrecht.

Markus fed us two types of quiche for supper, one with salmon and one with broccoli and blue cheese and creme brule for dessert.

After dining, our excellent tour guide, Piet, was anxious to show us around his hometown, Utrecht. We jumped on a bus to the city center and  then walked around the vibrant and busy university town on a Friday night, while taking in all the sights. 

Chef Markus on his way to town for supplies.

The Allen family with Piet.

Dinner aboard the Sailing Home.

It's just bike parking in Utrecht.

The Tour de France will start in Utrecht in 2015. Yes, in The Netherlands!

Piet telling the group about his hometown, Utrecht.

Cathedral in Utrecht.

Bicycles in Utrecht.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bike and Barge: Day 5.

7/30. Willemstad to Gorinchem, Netherlands. 42km.  

Once again, we stayed on the boat in the morning, sailed out of Willemstad and put in at the town of Werkendam. From Werkendam, we followed the Bergse Maas canal to the fortified town of Heusden, which was decimated by the Nazis during the final days of WWII.

We boarded a ferry to cross to Loevestein Castle but not before making a few quick turns and losing two members of our party, Eric and Cathy. We went back to look for them, but by that time, they had hopped on the wrong ferry and were headed in a different direction. Fortunately, they were able to call the boat and talk to Captain Willy, who passed on the message to Piet, so we knew that they were on their way safely back to the Sailing Home. 

Loevenstein Castle was built in 1360 on the strategic location where the rivers Meuse and Waal converge. Piet explained that this castle is known by every school child in the Netherlands as being the prison that the famous Hugo Grotius (Jurist, Theologian, Philosopher) escaped from a life-sentence from, hidden in a book chest in 1621. 

This was an easy day of riding, as we had the wind to our backs and stopped a lot. It didn't feel like we even really rode much. What a nice way to tour! From the castle, we caught 2 more ferries to reunite with the Sailing Home at Gorinchem.

Supper was carrot soup (yum!), potato dumplings, and a German beef dish. Dessert: apple tart.

Werkendam streets.

Ferry ride.

Pretty Belgian horse.

A cafe break.

Barry at the big tree at ferry landing.

Loevestein Castle.

Loevestein Castle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bike and Barge: Day 4.

7/29. Antwerp to Willemstad, Netherlands: 52km.

The Sailing Home started sailing before breakfast this morning. It would take us about 3 hours to work our way through the giant harbor, past ships and barges, to find a pull off place beside the river, along side a bike path. We departed the boat at 11:30 and started riding into a steady headwind, which would continue to dog us most of the day.

We had a good day of riding, passing through small villages and forested areas. Barry had fun on his e-bike, pushing Tracy up and over a few actual hills. Susan discovered that her brake pads were pretty much gone, after the ride in yesterday's rain. We crossed into the Netherlands and ended our day in the pretty little sailing town of Willemstad.

For supper, Markus had prepared my favorite meal of the trip: mussels, potato pancakes, salmon, herring, and prosciutto.

We toured the fortifications, surrounding the town, after supper with Piet.

Piet, probably telling us to turn around!

A local addressing our group about the history of his town.

Chilling in town.

Pretty Willemstad.

The Willemstad windmill.

Our neighbors in Willemstad, Netherlands.

We spent a night in the picturesque, old, fortified town of Willemstad, surrounded by sailing boats, old forts, and sheep.

Bike and Barge: Day 3.

7/28 St. Amands to Antwerp, Belgium. 41km.

We started out in a cold, wet rain this morning. Our route took us along side the mighty Scheldt River and through a nature reserve. We were wet most of the morning, but happy, and I wouldn't consider it much of a bicycle tour if I didn't get wet at least once during the trip. 

The really cool thing about today was how we rode into the amazing and beautiful port city of Antwerp. To cross from the new city into the old, we all put our bicycles into a huge elevator and rode it down 31 meters underground to the St. Anna bicycle and pedestrian tunnel. Then we mounted our bikes and rode the 572 meters through the white tile tunnel and crossed under the Scheldt and, once again, took an elevator to the top. Pretty cool stuff!

As I said before, Antwerp is amazing and beautiful. The rain had let up before we arrived and we walked around the city center, looking at all the 16th century guild houses surrounding the giant sculpture of  Brabo and the giant's hand that dominated the center square. We spent a good hour or more in the Cathedral of Our Lady, studying the fine artwork by Rubens and other famous Antwerp artists. 

Piet led us back to the boat, through the red light district, where The Sailing Home was moored in the harbor. Markus fed us a delicious supper of lasagna and artichokes and finished it with a desert of tiramisu.

After supper, we headed back to the city center for more sight seeing.

We rode in cold rain in the morning.

Wet, but happy.

The woman at the Scheldt in Rupelmonde, Belgium. 

A nice little residence.

Antwerp street scene.

A painting by Rubens in the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium.

Hanging in Antwerp.

Guild houses in Antwerp, Belgium.

Brabo Fountain in Antwerp

Beautiful Antwerp.